Travel

The Ageless Address

By Vani Malik

An institution rather than a hotel, the glorious Oberoi Grand, Kolkata is the place tradition calls home

History is alive and lives in the corridors of The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata. Privy to the city’s goings - on for more than a century – two world wars, the transition from British Raj to Independence to the modern digital world - there is much intrigue and drama that the iconic hotel on Chowringhee Road has been a silent witness to. The hotel is called the Grande Dame of Kolkata, a moniker derived from Colonel Grand, the first owner’s beautiful daughter-in-law, has survived decades of change, and still, it truly is the most distinguished and illustrious address in Kolkata. A meeting place for the new and the old, The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata today offers all the modern comforts a leisure or business traveller could hope for, while its celebrated Neo-Classical façade and palpable old world atmosphere are a testimony to its origins in the 19th century.

It all started in 1800s as a residence for Colonel Grand, was later run as a successful ‘Bed and Roast’ by an Irishwoman named Annie Monk, and later acquired in 1894 by an enterprising Armenian jeweller named Arathoon Stephen. This gentleman bought the erstwhile Monk estate and what was the Theatre Royal at the time, which caught fire and burned down to give way to the Grand Hotel. The quadrant structure of the hotel was built by Arathoon Stephen, and he fashioned The Grand Hotel into a 500-room extravaganza which gained tremendous popularity among the British stationed in India, the royals and the jet set. In 1938, the Grand Hotel was acquired by Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi, the late Founding Chairman of The Oberoi Group. This was the first major hotel that M.S. Oberoi attained, making it the beginning of his long and lasting legacy in the hospitality industry.

He set about creating a thriving space out of the old hotel, overhauling the plumbing, electrical lines, adding new dining spaces with live entertainment, but at the same time retaining old employees to create an ambience that was familiar yet new for patrons. He not only made The Grand the most loved address of the city but also an extremely profitable venture.

Even in its early days, The Grand became synonymous with modernity. This was the first hotel with large verandahs overlooking the wide pavement; the first hotel to have electricity and a hydraulic elevator; it became the place where movies were filmed and great literary stories were set; fabulous parties were held with royals and famous people and the who’s who of the city; it became the centre of life in Kolkata in the mid-20th century… and remains so today.

While the façade still harks back to the history of the hotel, the amenities on offer speak of the trends of today. With 209 exquisitely appointed rooms, The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata has two restaurants, Baan Thai - the fabulous Thai cuisine fine dining that is legendary in Kolkata - and Threesixtythree°, an exquisite all day dining space that seamlessly blends modern design features with elements of the hotel’s historical architecture. Opening only in 2017, the restaurant offers world cuisine, spanning Europe, Asia, Japan and India, and is the most modern space in the hotel.

In contrast, The Bar is where an intimate setting and legacy cocktails pay homage to the hotel’s history. Select from a wide range of interesting cocktails with names like Chowringhee, Babughat and East of Eden for a taste of an era gone by.

In keeping with the modern demands of travellers, the hotel also has a full-service spa. The Oberoi Spa has a comprehensive range of holistic therapies and treatments, including Ayurvedic, Aromatherapy, Thai, Balinese and Indian massages, and you can lose yourself for hours in the luxurious and indulgent atmosphere here.

There are large airy open spaces at the hotel for you to relax in, as well as a grand ballroom that can fit 800 people. There are all sorts of modern connectivity options available for the business traveller, as well as a total escape for those who are looking for some time out.

But the real luxury offering at this hotel is tradition. To its patrons and staff alike, The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata is special most of all for one reason: It has been a part of the city’s landscape for as long as living memory. For Kolkatans, it’s an inextricable part of their home.

Straddling two centuries effortlessly, The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata is the perfect amalgam of the old and the new, with its eyes set on the exciting future.

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